Women in agriculture

Rural Women are the ones who take part in almost 80% of agriculture to feed this whole world and yet they are poor and live in poverty. It kept me thinking, what’s going on, where is the problem. In the parallel world maybe, they should be the ones who would be rich and have everything, but the opposite is equally true to the real world. something has to be done .

what should be done

Facts (historical and contemporary) associated with women in agriculture across the globe need to be highlighted. Traditionally in the Americas, the women of many (if not most) Indigenous groups were the most respected and responsible for the management of agricultural activities. Through oral transmission, seed saving, landscape management, etc., it was primarily women who maintained land races of crop species, identified and developed new cultivars, planned intercrops or crop rotations, maintained wild stands of food and medicinal plants.

These contributions are not heard nearly enough when we talk about the evolution of agriculture and cropping systems. Women have always held an important role in determining the direction of agriculture and that should still be the case today!

@Duplicate and @kbob thanks so much for starting this really important conversation! my colleague @Caroline and I were just talking about this today. a contemporary issue is that in many countries women do the majority of on-farm labor but household income is often controlled by men, where it is sometimes diverted away from funding household expenditures (such as school fees) and towards things like alcohol.

one challenge we are grappling with is our framing for this issue - should we explicitly be looking at gender as it’s own separate issue, or is it safe to assume that gender will emerge in most areas in which it is relevant if we survey the current literature about food/farming issues? in some respects it’s an issue of semantics, but we want to make sure we’re approaching these problems appropriately.

It seems likely that the very earliest agriculture, domesticated cultivation, was invented by women in the hunter-gatherer culture, since they had the primary duty of “gathering” food from natural sources. It would have encouraged them to cultivate to produce more with less effort and control the types of crops

Ever since, women have born the double duty of feeding the whole family or even tribe while birthing and caring for an excessive number of children, often at the cost of their health and life-style. Today, it seems to me, such a large share of the Earth’s population lives in paternalistic cultures in which women are given enormous responsibility and only meager authority over their own lives that their role in agriculture can not be separated from their cultural environment.

In industrial/democratic societies, therefore, what we can look for, at least in part, is what remaining cultural practices or conditions inhibit or burden women trying to farm. We start with the recognition that one important advance has been property rights equally available and shared for women, although not always easily secured when traditions favor male ownership or something like primogeniture.

Two factors stand out as critical to improving opportunities for women in agriculture. One is access to adequate capital to finance whatever level of equipment and basic supplies they need for the type of farming they intend to do. A second is a social system that can compensate for the birthing and care of children.

First, we have seen the growing provision of microloans for women who can use as little as $50. to change their economic role and lives substantially. Farming in many cases may require more than most microloans, but rural banks and financial programs must be funded more based on the types of business opportunities women identify and whatever barriers or hesitation lenders might feel must be overcome.

Second, birth planning and control needs to be available to every woman interested in establishing her own farm. With some control over her pregnancies, a woman farmer will next need social support for her children, including pre-school care, health care, such as vaccinations and diet, and transportation to and from school. Free of childcare demands for several hours per day, a woman can make enormous progress in earning a living and caring for the whole family.

Women are the backbone of mountain agriculture. The majority of the work from sowing to harvesting is done by the women. Men role is mainly ploughing and harvesting. But in many regions where migration of male is high even women take care of ploughing.

They are the decision maker and if we see the selection of the crops in the mountains its based on the nutritional value of the crops (it maybe by default). Generally, crops which can be stored for long are preferred by the farmers. They are the custodian of mountain agriculture and have maintained traditional varieties and conserved the agro-diversity biodiversity.

There is a need to provide tools for sowing and harvesting which can make life easy for the farmers and women in particular. The women needs to be trained in crop breeding so that they can improve the productivity of their crops.

The high role of poor women in agricolture and the small redditivity of the same is a linked problem, meaning (to avoid any misunderstanding from the above words!) that where agricolture has small or no redditivity, then families have to employ a higher proportion of their working force, and that means including women. This is even greater if we think about a family that, for example, has a higher women-to-male ratio (like: many daughters, few sons). When you’re into subsistence farming or small redditivity, all your energy has to go there, but at the same time it won’t change your status or wealth by much - things change when farming allows you to have more products you can sell (meaning women can move to retail work, however small) and/or when you can employ methods and equipment that gets you more product for less work-hours. The key here should therefore be in ensuring farming families have access to basic (and over time not-so-basic) equipment that allows them to increase productivity.

interesting @Lorenzo - this is sort of to my earlier point, perhaps the gender lens on technology is simplicity, adaptability, reliability, etc. to attain quick wins w.r.t on farm productivity; that is, gender relations as a concept permeate the assessment of trends and remedies and the technological innovations needed.

We’re having a discussion about women in agriculture almost entirely with men!

@GinaQuattrochi, @madagnino, @agwriter, let’s go back to @Duplicate’s original question: how do we address this imbalance?

@AlanReed suggested micro-loans specifically for women farmers, access to birth control and improved social services. (The last two may be outside our purview, though.) What do you think?

Women are not only the core of the workforce in agriculture, in most countries they are the core of the food processing workforce as well.

Something I have gleaned from observing the commentaries in this forum is the emphasis of XPrize on strongest link technologies as a means to solve global problems. Identify the problem and apply as much technology as possible to advance the situation. With food, and in particular with gender development, we have to take a different strategy (pardon the term, but “weakest link” strategy is the business terminology, but smacks as inappropriate here.) How do we make sure that women have adequate resources to succeed. In particular, monetary, socioeconomic, educational, and so on. I don’t think this forum is going to smash the patriarchy. But instead how can women’s access to education and finance change the outcome of agriculture?

It’s true XPRIZE tends toward technological solutions, but we’re definitively interested in other ideas as well. Especially since this community is part of what we call an “Impact Roadmap”, not yet a Prize Design. An Impact Roadmap (learn more here) ideally leads to designs for XPRIZEs, but in addition can inform calls to stakeholders, the formation of partnerships and other initiatives.

Another discussion that may be relevant to this topic is New revenue streams and business model innovations for farmers.

thanks @Amy_Proulx you raise an important point. @NickOttens is right that there is an important distinction between an Impact Roadmap and an XPRIZE competition.

We generally think of an Impact Roadmap as the ideal precursor to an XPRIZE competition. The breakthroughs we identify in the Impact Roadmap domain can form the high-level basis for an XPRIZE competition. That said, the Impact Roadmap effort is a failure if all of the potential breakthroughs are suitable for the competition model - breakthroughs in other areas (such as politics/policy, human behavior, etc.) are unlikely to be best tackled through an XPRIZE competition, and are critical areas for potential breakthroughs (particularly in a domain like Food).

The competition model, in part driven by the need to set specific judging, tends toward technology solutions; that is true. And at heart, we are techno-optimists and believe in the power of exponential technology to radically change our world for the better. But when thinking about solving global challenges at a more macro level, breakthroughs will be needed using a range of approaches and across widely disparate areas.

This conversation is useful. I know when I mentioned at work that I was on the XPrize Community chat boards, that the immediate response was “Ooooh, high tech!”. As a scientist in this field, but someone who has been on the ground working with scientists trying to solve food security, food access, and food manufacturing problems around the world, all sorts of tech have been developed. But dealing with the workforce who needs to implement these technologies, the lack of technical competency to adopt technology will consistently be the barrier. The food processing workforce globally is an enormous force, and in many countries is one of the largest manufacturing sectors, but is highly segmented for baseline education levels. Making sure that there is opportunity for easily accessible learning resources is key in this, to help the workforce become more capable of dealing with technological innovation.

@Folake, @Tobi, @Cox, you might have thoughts on this discussion as well. Are there parts of the problem we haven’t discussed yet? What can and should be done?